Detroit’s own Koffin Kats released their seventh studio album, Born of the Motor, last week.
The swagger-filled album is infused with fist-pumping punk intertwined with the band’s signature psycho-billy roots and a hint of metal.
The album is also filled with lyrics that continue the band’s storytelling tradition.
On Thursday, Koffin Kats’ vocalist and upright bassist, Vic Victor, spoke about the new release before the band’s show in Long Beach, California at the Gaslamp.
Q: Born of the Motor was released on Tuesday. What type of reaction have you seen so far?
Vic: It feels like it’s a little bit too good to be true because on the last album we had a really positive reaction. People were sending us personal messages telling us how much they dig it. So I half set myself up that when this one came out I was waiting for people to go well it’s good but it’s taking awhile for it to grow on me. That type of thing but the response to this one has just been double compared to what we got last time. It’s really awesome. In fact I was just reading a review that just came in on it right before you called and it was just, “It’s overwhelmingly awesome!”. [burst of laughter]
Q: Listening to it you can definitely hear a mix of what you guys have done in the past but you also seem to move in a different and darker direction on this one. How would you describe it?
Vic: Every record we do we try to make it different from the last and while doing that we try to make it better from the last. The last one set the bar pretty high in terms of production and the song writing was a little bit more solid compared to anything else we’ve done in the past. It was while writing this one that it was really kind of wearing on me. It was like oh man, is this one going to actually be better or is it going to be subpar? So far everyone’s been giving me the idea that we’ve nailed it.
Q: What do you feel makes this one different?
Vic: Well for one we had a chance to really sit down and be a part of the mixing and production of the album as opposed to sending it out. We were right there to be able to say we want to keep this part and we don’t want to keep this part and we want to mix these vocals like this. Another thing that we did was we really focused on making the sound as tight as possible. A lot of that came in working with guitar tones and cleaning things up. I think the older we get the more we want to show that hey we actually do have talent playing our instruments but sometimes it gets muddied up with a lot of distortion and things like that. I come from the school of punk rock where like the more distorted and faster the better but now I’m like sometimes that doesn’t allow the song to really translate through if you’re going to be putting all of those effects on it. We do have a little bit of production going into it. There are some vocal effects and studio tricks and all that but nothing too obscene. We kept it rather raw even to the point where we don’t really have heavy rhythm track or double guitar tracks going on. We kept it pretty true to being a three-piece.
Q: Born of the Motor allows you guys to give a nod to your hometown of Detroit. What does that idea mean to you?
Vic: The idea of Born of the Motor is a nod of the cap to Motor City but it really where it kind of holds meaning for us is that we’ve been a road band pretty much since we’ve been a band. It was basically thanks to being able to buy crappy vans and things like that and driving them until they go into the ground that really put us where we’re at. We wouldn’t be where we’re at if it wasn’t for all of the touring that we’ve done. So in a way the title’s meaning is the fact that how we came about is thanks to the fact that we hopped in a van and that’s what grabbed people’s attention. You know, how much we went to all the different cities and all that. Another song that kind of has a Detroit feel to it is a song called “The Collector”. It’s based upon a article that I read I think in the New York Times but it was about a guy whose job basically was to go and pick up the unclaimed dead bodies that were found in the streets of Detroit. I thought that’s a different subject so the song is really based on that.
Q: Your albums have always been very story-line driven but do you feel that this one is a bit more personal for you?
Vic: Well I mean every song we do is basically a fictional song. It would have been really easy for us to do a whole album based on the plight of Detroit and it seems to be the popular question that everyone wants to ask us: “Oh, what’s it like there?” I think I’ve gotten so tired of being asked that question that the last thing I wanted to do was dedicate a whole album to it. I mean we really kind of tried to stay away from what is going on in Detroit as fodder for an album. I think if you took away the album title and the mention to the Motor City that you wouldn’t really have anything really relating to Detroit in the album. I wrote the majority of the lyrics while being on tour so like with the last album it’s kind of like what you experience that week. You know, something random at a show inspired this song or popped the idea in my head. I took a lot of things from stories that people tell or if it’s a situation that a friend is going through I won’t name names but the subject matter just gets inspiring. I put myself in this position and this situation.
Q: Is there a song from the album that you are enjoying play live the most?
Vic: Right now we’re playing Born of the Motor because it was the first track released before the album came out so people really had a chance to soak it in. We’re not one of those bands that can just go and play songs that nobody knows and expects everyone to dig it. I think only Morrissey can do that! I think the next one that we’re going to bring into our set is “Giving Blood”.
Q: You guys are out touring right now. How has that been going? When does this leg wrap up?
Vic: We’ve been out since just after Labor Day and we’ll be back home December 15. We’ve been really lucky this tour. Everything has been going smoothly. The shows have all been pretty much solid. Being on tour not every night is a hit. There’s misses here and there but we’ve had some really pleasant surprises. We went up and played in Missoula, Montana and it’s really cool to see a fan base growing up in those areas. You have your standards like Seattle and Portland, Oregon and the major cities coming down the West Coast but it’s cool to see the smaller towns like Spokane, Washington and Great Falls, Montana having pockets of people really digging our stuff and coming out to our shows. That’s why we’ve stayed out on the road so much. We’ve really built these fan bases in these smaller areas.
Q: Yeah, a lot of bands just don’t do that. There are so many bands just here in the Detroit area who never move beyond playing the local clubs.
Vic: Yeah you know one band that I can definitely vouch for as getting out there is Against The Grain. It’s funny because once they did their first couple of tours I got a message from the drummer talking about man, now I know what you guys go through! I remember talking to them when they were actually just starting to be a band and starting to do shows and I said really you’re almost wasting your time being a band if you don’t get moving. If you really want to keep your band and have it go somewhere you’ve got to get moving.
Q: What do you feel has been the biggest thing other than the touring that has gotten your name out there?
Vic: File sharing. Yeah and the reason I say that is the first time that we went to Europe people actually had our music and knew our stuff and at that time we didn’t have any European distribution so it was because of file sharing. It’s funny the amount of people every night almost who come up to us and say I kind of feel bad because I found you guys online and downloaded your music. I always say that’s awesome and pass it along because people that actually care will come and buy the real product. We’ve never been a majorly distributed band so we needed that file sharing to get the name out. It’s not like we’re making all of our money from the album sales. The only reason we’re making albums is to stay relevant.
Q: You talked about “Giving Blood” being the next single. Have you filmed any videos for any of the tracks off of the album?
Vic: Yeah it took us forever but we finally figured out a good idea for a new music video and so it looks like we’ll be spending five days in Albuquerque over the next week and that’s actually where our guitar player is from and he has some friends with video cameras. We have an idea and we met this producer guy out of New York and he’s going to help us out and hopefully we’ll get a decent video out of it. That’s going to be for “Giving Blood”.
Q: Do you have any other plans for the rest of the year?
Vic: Really that’s it because we’re going to be gone until mid-December and then I can’t announce it yet because we haven’t gotten the complete confirmation but it looks like we’re going to be playing that Black Christmas show again. [Koffin Kats’ played at the Detroit show at the Magic Stick last year along with thirty other punk, rock and metal bands.] We can’t officially announce it until we see that the contract has come through because we’ve made that mistake before where we said, hey we’re on this show it’s going to be awesome and then ended up not being a part of it.
Q: Obviously you enjoyed playing the Black Christmas show last year?
Vic: Yeah it was awesome. It’s cool to have so many awesome local bands packed into a show like that. The first time I heard about it the fact that we’ve had so many bad experiences when a club complex tries to do a show like that and fit 50 bands or whatever in one night that it usually just becomes one big cluster so I was worried. It ended up going so smooth though that it was awesome and I’d love to be apart of it again.
Q: How do you guys decide where you tour? Do you try to stick to the same venues or prefer to branch out?
Vic: One of the factors in where we tour at is the time of year. If it’s Winter we try to stay away from Canada and the North. When we do our full-on U.S. tour at the end of the year we do the Northeast first and then shoot over and do all the Northwest going into October and November and then we just hang out in the Southern states during November and December and just kind of hightail it back to Michigan. We’ve been kind of doing that route for the last four or five years.
Q: Yeah unfortunately it’s actually snowing here a bit today!
Vic: Yeah, that’s what I heard. [laughs]
Q: Are there any big goals left for the band?
Vic: Well actually one of them we’re doing this Saturday. We’re playing at the Whisky. That’s one of those legendary clubs where some of your favorite bands have their live albums. Finally now after ten years we’re playing one of these iconic clubs in Hollywood. We’re going to try to do a double whammy for that day and try to meet Lemmy [Kilmister, Motorhead] who we’re told hangs out down the street at the Rainbow Room playing video poker. We’re really lucky in the sense that I have like this mental list of bands that we wanted to play with and a good portion of those bands we’ve actually toured with and some we can call friends of ours. There are still definitely some bands out there that are on that list. We really want to do a show with Iggy Pop and Alice Cooper.
Q: You need to jump on Metallica’s Orion Festival if it’s back in Detroit this year. I keep hearing Alice’s name being floated around.
Vic: Yeah actually a really good friend of ours does artwork for James Hetfield. He’s been trying to slip our cd in there. The reason that we didn’t try to get on it last year was that we were in Europe at that time. I’m not sure if we’re going to be in Europe again this year. I was jealous because we were over there and I saw Youtube footage of all the people and then when Metallica came out under the pseudo-name and did Kill ‘Em All. It was like oh man, I would so be at that! It was really cool at the same time to see an actual festival vibe thing going on in Detroit on Belle Isle. It was promising.
Q: When you get time off, what is your favorite thing to do?
Vic: Nothing! It’s like when we’re home, we’re home. We know we’re going to be home for the next twenty-five days so we’ve got to make the most of it and catch up on our yard work and the things around our houses that fell apart while we were gone. That takes up so much time. It’s nice to just be able to sit on the couch and just unwind once you’re in your domain.
Q: With the year winding down do you have any resolutions for next year yet?
Vic: Hmm, I’ve not thought about that. I never make the exercise one because we do actually all have gym memberships on the road because it helps kill time to do that and we get free showers! I think I don’t know. I mean it’s a simple question but I guess it would probably be to read more books. We spend a lot of time in bookstores and I pick up a lot of books and I’m getting a really awesome collection but I have no time to read them.
Q: Are you listening to anyone new that maybe your fans haven’t heard of?
Vic: At the moment we’re listening to our new cd so we can get used to the songs again. Once we record in the studio the last thing we want to do is ever hear it again but now that we’re out here and people are going to start asking for the songs we’ve got to get familiar with them again. We’ve been listening a lot to this band called OC45. We recently did a big tour with them on the East Coast called the Upstart Fest and they’re out and about working on the road right now too. They’re good guys and a hardworking band and they’ve got some good music.
Q: Do you have any final words?
Vic: Just thank you to anybody who took the time to read this and if they’re interested in what we have going on all of our dates can be found at www.koffinkatsrock.com. Whether it’s us or any other band just go out there and try to support live music because that’s really the only way bands like us survive!